On the ’80s sitcom Facts of Life, Lisa Whelchel was 16 when she won the role of spoiled teen beauty Blair Warner and Mindy Cohn was only 13 portraying her plucky classmate Natalie. For nine years the cast (which also included Kim Fields and Nancy McKeon) relished the good and endured the bad of being young girls growing up in the spotlight.
“Imagine having your entire puberty onscreen. That’s what we lived with!” Cohn, now 46, says, laughing. Here, 25 years after the series finale, Cohn and Whelchel, 50, discuss how they survived Hollywood criticism as teens and learned to become well-adjusted adults.
MC: At this stage of our lives, we’re both focusing on doing things on our own terms. But it’s different than when we were on The Facts of Life. Weight was always an issue back then.
LW: An everyday battle. Our bodies were a topic of conversation. There wasn’t the Internet, but we knew what people were saying. Joan Rivers called us ‘The Fats of Life.’
MC: That was part of the routine. She’d say [imitates Rivers], “Did you see the latest episode of The Fats of Life?” And of course everyone would laugh. We didn’t really talk about weight on-set. We were so tired of that conversation.
LW: But the producers sent me to quite a few fat farms! I’d say, “I’m going to Texas on my hiatus,” and they’d say, “Oh, no you’re not. We bought you a ticket to the fat farm!”